It’s been three years since Harold and Kumar had their last big Hollywood adventure, Harold And Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, and seven years since Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle. However, that’s the real-world time stream. In Harold and Kumar’s world, it’s been six years since everyone’s second-favorite pair of stoners escaped from the clutches of the United States government, and since that time things have changed greatly for our heroes.
Harold (John Cho) has settled into a happy life. He’s married to a beautiful woman whose father-in-law (Danny Trejo in a great role) hates him, he’s got a great job on Wall Street, and he’s well on his way to becoming one of the one per cent richest people the 99 per cent are protesting against as we speak. Kumar (Kal Penn) has also settled into a nice routine. His girlfriend has left him, so he lives in a filthy apartment and spends his entire day, night, and life getting high, or as he puts it “not low.”
The two have gone their separate ways, until one day a package meant for Harold arrives on Kumar’s doorstep. Kumar’s got troubles of his own, what with finding out his girlfriend is pregnant and all, but despite this, he gets a ride from his friend Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld) out to Harold’s McMansion to drop off the package, which turns out to be a giant joint. Things go awry, as things often do, so it’s up to Harold and Kumar to save Christmas, both for Harold’s in-laws and for the rest of the world.
There has been a glut of 3D movies this year, and A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas is another one, except this one seems to have a little bit more self-awareness about the limitations of the genre, which is weird because it’s a Harold and Kumar movie. If anything, Harold and Kumar director Todd Strauss-Schulson and writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg seem to treat the 3D not as an after-thought, but as something to parody.
Yes, they have outlandish 3D set pieces, such as when a flaming Christmas tree gets thrown out of a window, or when a car gets in an accident and the requisite stuff comes flying at the viewer. On the other hand, they have moments such as the one in which Kenneth Park (Bobby Lee) randomly points into the 3D camera after Harold, wisely, reminds him how 3D has jumped the shark.
Just because Harold And Kumar is having fun mocking 3D, doesn’t mean the chance to explore the third dimension is completely wasted. In the middle of the movie, there is a long song-and-dance number starring Neil Patrick Harris and a bevy of showgirls, where a Busby Berkeley musical number takes on an extra dimension (pardon the pun) due to the depth of field created by the special effect. While it’s cheesy—it is a Christmas medley with a dancing Neil Patrick Harris, what do you expect?—it’s clear that the team behind Harold And Kumar can actually do something with 3D when they take it seriously; they simply choose not to do this.
The script, from Harold And Kumar creators Hurwitz and Schlossberg, tries to find a nice balance between the traditionally bittersweet Christmas movie and a Harold And Kumar stoner comedy. In that respect, it’s not terribly successful. It has some funny moments, but it’s also pretty strained and feels tired. It checks some boxes in both genres, but it doesn’t quite hit either mark hard enough to be successful, either as a stoner comedy or as a Christmas comedy. It’s a nice attempt to marry two vastly different genres, but there’s not enough mash in the mash-up.
The actors try their best to breathe extra life into the material, but it still feels flat. Cho and Penn are both trying, and they seem to be getting along, but they both feel a little too old for this kind of thing. John Cho has Star Trek to worry about, and Kal Penn has been indulging his political leanings by working for the Obama administration. The novelty of Neil Patrick Harris has also worn off a bit, though they do get some unexpected mileage out of his recent emergence from the closet. Thomas Lennon is a fun supporting character actor in his role, as is Trejo.
For me, Harold And Kumar is a pretty uneven flick. For everything that worked, something else didn’t. The many references and parodies were fun, but they also got old after a while. The 3D was occasionally interesting or funny (or added something to the movie), but most of the time it was unnecessary. Either the dialogue and character exchanges were witty and fun, or they were flat. Harold And Kumar is consistently inconsistent.
I’m aware that I’m a little too old and sober to be a member of Harold And Kumar’s core audience, yet in spite of this, I got a few good laughs out of the ridiculousness of A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas. It’s not a classic holiday film or a classic stoner comedy, but it’s an interesting attempt at combining the two.